A Few Things of No Particular Importance

Warning: Very random nonsensical post ahead.

1. It’s effing cold here. I’m sure if you are in the east coast and reading this you probably want to punch me in the face, but hey, for the bay area it has been freeeeeeeezing. I’ve officially started wearing my poofy winter coat I bought for a winter Chicago trip. So if I have to wear that in San Francisco? Trust me, it’s cold.

2. I’m getting LASIK on Thursday and I cannot wait. I’ve worn contacts since I was in 7th grade, so waking up and being able to see seems completely surreal to me. I can barely see my own hand in front of my face when I’m not wearing contacts or glasses, so I really can’t even fathom what this will be like. Have any of you had it?

3. I have become completely addicted to Breaking Bad. I think about it all the time. It terrifies me but I can’t stop watching it. Kevin and I started it a few weeks ago and we’re almost done with the third season. Last night I had a dream that I was selling meth and Gustavo was yelling at me. I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing. To counteract this, I just stare at this picture:

 

4. Kevin and I saw Zero Dark Thirty on Saturday and it was FANTASTIC. The torture scenes were really hard for me to watch (as torture scenes should be, I suppose), but it was so good. Jessica Chastain is phenomenal.

5. Speaking of phenomenal, have you seen Les Mis yet? If so, you must watch this video.

Happy Monday Friends! Only five more days until the weekend! We can do it!

MariaJanuary 7, 2013 - 12:45 pm

The thought of getting Lasik scares me, but it’s definitely something I’d like to do one day.
xo, Maria

RebeccaJanuary 7, 2013 - 1:35 pm

I was just saying the same thing about the weather here! I have friends on the East Coast who tell me I am insane, but the Bay Area seems a lot colder this winter than usual. I’m always in a scarf, jacket, and gloves now so that is definitely saying something haha. Good luck on the lasik! My brother had it done and he says it was the best choice he ever made. Yay!

SerenaJanuary 7, 2013 - 3:02 pm

@Rebecca – It has been SO COLD! I’ve been freezing. I think it seems even colder because you are not expecting it to be this cold, if you know what I mean.

@Maria – I used to be terrified of it, but recently two of my really good friends had it done and they said that it wasn’t scary at all and that they didn’t feel any pain, so now I feel pretty good about it!

nancy @ adore to adornJanuary 7, 2013 - 4:13 pm

OMG yes it is COLD!! I hate to say that when I realize others are actually freezing their butts but man…it’s cold! I’m a California girl so it’s tough for us! haha
I definitely want to watch Zero Dark Thirty! I saw Django Unchained and the Hobbit. Les Miserables is on the list (since we intended to watch it on Christmas Day but got side-tracked) but I think this weekend will be spent watching Gangster Squad…OH Ryan Gosling… Swoon. lol.
xo,
nancy

JessicaJanuary 7, 2013 - 7:01 pm

I love Breaking Bad!! I’m completely caught up now. I think we did all the seasons in a month! It’s just so addicting.

Hope Lasik goes well. My hubby needs it. He makes me read the street signs for him when he drives.

SaraJanuary 8, 2013 - 7:17 am

Hey – this is Sara from Syracuse! I had LASIK in 2005 and it was one of the BEST things I have ever done! I actually forgot about the hassle contacts until I was traveling with my sister somewhere and it all came back to me, seeing the paraphernalia. It’s been SO nice to not have to deal with that – especially waking up in the middle of the night for the babies! I try not to talk anyone into doing it, but since you already are – I think you’ll LOVE IT!

A Healthier 2013

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I know it’s so cliche to make all sorts of resolutions about eating better, working out more, being healthier etc. in the New Year, but oh well. I’m going to do it anyway, because let me tell you, December kicked. my. ass.

I usually consider the month of December kind of a wash for me. I just accept that I’m going to be eating and drinking my face off, and that I’ll inevitably gain a few pounds. So each December I eat what I want and drink with abandon. Vegetables? Yeah right. Daily after work cocktails? Meals that consist primarily of carbohydrates and sugar? Bring it on!

Apparently though, now that I’m 30, things have changed. My metabolism has changed. Those couple of holiday pounds I usually gain have somehow turned into almost ten. And let me tell you… ten pounds on my petite five foot two (and a half!) frame is A LOT.

I have always been blessed with a good metabolism. I NEVER worked out, I could eat whatever I wanted, and for the most part, I never put on any weight. People always said “enjoy it now, just wait until you’re 30″ and I would laugh and be like “oh ha ha ha silly you, my mom has always been thin, I am just lucky this way.”

Turns out the joke is on me! Whose laughing now?

NOT ME.

Kevin and I try to eat fairly healthy when we are at home, but December just killed me. Apparently my body can no longer tolerate a diet that consists primarily of refined carbohydrates and half a bottle of wine daily! On Sunday night I sat down and my favorite pair of jeans ripped in the crotch! And yesterday morning, I put on a pair of pants that used to be fairly loose, and I could barely zip them up.

WTF?!?!

I started to notice this slowing of my metabolism about six months ago, but I blamed it on other things… i.e. “must be my new birth control!” or “weight gain is common with this medication,” and while I’m sure both of those things didn’t help matters, I think the main culprit lies in my aging metabolism.

And that sucks.

So for 2013 I plan on eating better and moving more. More vegetables, less alcohol. More movement, less vegging out on the couch.

I’m not trying to do anything drastic here, I just want to have an overall healthier lifestyle. I don’t need to pour myself a large glass of wine (or two) every night. I don’t need to eat a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich for lunch three times a week (but oh, those things are so good!). I can still splurge on food and drink when I go out as long as I’m making healthier decisions the rest of the time. I just need to make myself do it.

And herein lies the problem. I really hate doing any sort of cardio work out, and I really don’t like vegetables.

But I’m going to try. I’ve been faithfully going to bar method at least three times a week for the past six months, but it’s not enough. I need some cardio. I’m certainly stronger, but I’m also… bigger, and well, that’s pretty much the opposite of why I started going. I need to mix it up with some form of cardio, and with that, healthier daily eating habits. No more grabbing my beloved chipotle for lunch. I will train myself to like vegetables, as hard as that may be.

So there you have it. My health goals for 2013. More vegetables. Less alcohol. More movement.

What about you? Was there a certain age when you noticed the loathed metabolism shift? Do you have any health goals for this new year? Or any tips on how to stop hating vegetables? Seriously, I do not like them.

(unless they are completely covered in butter and cheese, which kind of defeats the purpose, no?)

MoJanuary 3, 2013 - 8:51 am

I was pretty much exactly like you. Could eat whatever, whenever, and not gain a pound. I think around 25, that kind of started to change, but when I turned 30 last year, that’s when the slow metabolism bus really hit me full force. I’ve wondered if it was better to have that time in your life where you could eat anything and everything you wanted, or if it was a curse because it made the transition into eating right so much harder. I just recently acknowledge that I can’t just work out to lose the extra lbs – I actually have to lay off the pizza. and the pasta. and the wine. (tears)

Anyway – I always HATE broccoli, but started roasting it recently which I LOVE! Maybe try that?

RebeccaJanuary 3, 2013 - 10:28 am

I am with ya on the vegetable stuff! And since I’m pregnant, they are an absolute must for me. The one thing I would suggest is maybe buy a juicer and actually “drink” the vegetables. My husband juices frequently and I will just have some of his because it helps me to consume more of the vegetables I would NEVER eat on my own (aka celery). I’m trying to be better about it but old habits die hard I tell ya!

SerenaJanuary 3, 2013 - 11:01 am

@Mo – I think it’s worse! It’s so much harder for me to start eating healthy now because I’ve never had too… I’ve never had to create healthy eating habits, so now I have to break some 30 year old habits, and that is HARD! I think it’s easier if you’re just used to thinking and eating differently. For me, I still have to stop and consciously tell myself not to eat something because my natural inclination is just to eat whatever I want. Ugh. Glad I’m not alone though!

@Rebecca – I’m with you on the drinking your vegetables! I actually used to make a green smoothie every morning, but I totally got out of that habit. I’m trying to do it again now. It’s so much easier for me to drink a smoothie full of spinach and kale than try to eat full servings of them whole. I just do not like vegetables. I’m jealous of those that do.

ritaJanuary 3, 2013 - 11:33 am

green smoothies! or juice… best way to get your greens in.

also – fritters! smitten kitchen has great recipes for cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli… we make them with gluten free flour and they’ve become staples during the week. served with a big salad! http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/12/cauliflower-feta-fritters-with-pomegranate/

RachelJanuary 3, 2013 - 11:42 am

This is a tough one! I am lucky that my mom fed us a ton of veggies growing up so I think I was just ‘trained’ to like them. But I think the best way is to just start experimenting with different recipes, spices, and cooking methods. You are bound to find a couple dishes you like and then maybe your taste buds will start to like more and more. Also, by cooking them yourself, you can start cutting down on the butter and salt a restaurant would throw in. I’ll send you some recipe ideas!

SerenaJanuary 3, 2013 - 11:50 am

@Rita – I’m definitely trying to get back into the swing of starting my day with a green smoothie. I also think the fritter idea is fantastic… the recipe you listed actually sounded…gasp… good to me! Who would have thought?!?!

@Rachel – I’d love some recipe ideas, thanks! You are lucky.. I grew up on Cinnamon Toast Crunch and lunchables, so the fact that I eat even half as healthy as I do as an adult is impressive to me! When I did the cleanse my palette definitely changed, and vegetables starting tasted better to me, but then I went back to my old ways and lost all of that progress. Ugh.

AshleyJanuary 3, 2013 - 2:11 pm

I’m all about starting 2013 healthy and fit! If you haven’t already, give spaghetti squash a try. I just top mine with tomato sauce and to me it’s (almost) like eating spaghetti noodles!

MadisonJanuary 5, 2013 - 3:06 pm

So I’ve never hard the greatest diet. I just eat whatever I want. And what I want is pretty much entirely junk. My metabolism hasn’t really changed at all but I definitely stopped getting quite so much exercise since I’m no longer in college or working retail. Sitting at a desk all day and then coming home and surfing the web makes it easy to gain weight. I’ve been trying the past year to get up and get more exercise but it’s hard. But the weight is slowly dropping off so that’s good. :) My health goals this year is to reach a size six like I was in college. A year ago I was a 14 and right now I’m a 10. So there’s been progress! I don’t like veggies either. Yuck! Good luck this year with your goals!!

JennJanuary 7, 2013 - 4:58 pm

For me, it was exactly thirty. My already curvy hips seemed to be a tad wider and my usual workout coupled with eating semi-healthy stopped cutting it. After kicking up the workout and talking with a few other ladies that went through the same thing, it’s the diet that has to change now. I dislike veggies a lot too, so I feel your pain! Pinterest has been a godsend for finding veggie recipes that I can actually choke down! One of my favorites is grape tomatoes, halved and then baked in the oven, sprinkled with a dash of brown sugar, oregano and s&p. Super yummy! My fitness goals are pretty huge this year as I’m trying to get in super good shape before the hubs and I look to start a family later this year! Best of luck – remember it’s mind over matter!

WhitneyJanuary 10, 2013 - 7:01 am

Story of my life recently. I’m 27. almost 28, and this is my first time working at a sedentary job since graduating. Up until a year ago I walked all over campus, and before that I worked with kids all day. After this holiday season, my clothes are just uncomfortable. I need to make some serious changes to my diet and workout habits. Like you I was able to eat whatever I wanted for the better part of three decades and now my body is playing a cruel cruel joke on me. I don’t mind veggies, but I prefer my food fried, covered with cheese, or filled with sugar.

[...] by whole “drink less, move more” resolution I made in the beginning of the [...]

Adios 2012, Bonjour 2013

New Years 2007. We were such babies! So young!

In less than 24 hours we will be in a new year. 2012 will be long gone, a year of memories to pile away.

The beginning of 2012 was a little rocky for me. I had just turned 29 and suddenly the fact that I was almost 30 and still trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life made me feel more than a little pathetic. I’d always thought that I’d be more established by the time I was 30, and realizing I was still as confused as I was five years ago sent me into a downward spiral of stress and anxiety and depression.* I’d also just gotten married and was suffering from a major case of post-wedding blues. After spending a year and half anxiously awaiting and planning our wedding, I found myself going “well what do I do now?” This was accompanied by constant whining and complaining and a whole lot of “woe is me.” January 2012 was not my favorite of months.

I’m happy to report that things have changed considerably since then. I started working hard on bettering myself, becoming more self-aware and trying harder to be the person I want to be. I started this blog which helped immensely – just having a creative outlet, a hobby that was somewhat tangible, made me feel like a more productive person.

In this process, I realized that so much of my “failure” was in my head, because I really do have a good life. I’ve worked hard to create an adult life I’m proud of, and while some parts of it might not look how I expected them to look, the whole of them is pretty great. I came to realize that I was letting myself be defined by things that in the grand scheme of things (and really the short scheme of things), did not matter. And realizing all of that was kind of freeing.

One thing I came to understand was that attitude really does affect so much of your life. When I started focusing on having a better attitude, on being more optimistic, more encouraging, more grateful, more loving, I found that I was so much happier. I’m not saying positive thinking is the cure to all that ails you, I’m well aware that simply thinking about something isn’t enough, but I do believe there is power in it.

I still struggle. I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with my life, but I have faith that I’m on the path to figuring it out. It’s a work in progress. But that’s the thing.. I’m working on it. And I’ve allowed myself to accept that that is okay.

I have no idea what 2013 has in store for me, but I hope it’s full of as much love and laughter and self discovery as 2012 was.

I wish you all a year full of the same, and I hope you all have a very lovely New Years Eve.

Until next year!

*I had, and still do have, a very good job. It’s just not necessarily the career that I pictured myself in.

GretchenJanuary 1, 2013 - 10:00 am

Happy New Year! Hoping 2013 is the best year yet for all of us! Derek and I watched the documentary Happy yesterday to get us in the right frame of mind for the New Year…definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet!

ritaJanuary 3, 2013 - 11:38 am

wow… i feel like we had a very, very similar year, although you articulated it far better than i ever could have! i actually made my husband read this post i thought it was so crazy. why is that we (the collective we- blogs, magazines, etc.) talk so much about women being depressed after planning a wedding in the sense that it is because they miss planning the wedding instead of focusing on the fact that it may be because the act of planning the wedding enabled them to realize that they maybe weren’t where they thought they’d be at this point? or that there were so many other options that maybe hadn’t been considered?

like you, i’m working to cultivate a better attitude, and reframe the issues that frustrate me as i work on improving them… and i’m excited to see what 2013 brings us!

My best (and worst) books of 2012

Print available at theartofobservation Etsy Shop

If you know me in real life, you know that I am a rather voracious reader. I love books. When I was younger and people asked me what my hobbies were, I would say reading. I still say this. I remember one time when I was 12 and a friend came over and I was finishing up a book. I kept telling her “just give me a couple more minutes, I’m almost done,” and she got so frustrated and tired of waiting that she finally took my book from me and threw it in the pool.

I will admit that I was being rather rude, but destroying my book?!? A bit extreme, if you ask me.

Anyway, I love books and I read quite a bit. I read at least a book a month because of my beloved book club, but I usually read at least one more throughout the month. This year I’ve read some phenomenal books as well as some super waste of time fails. I love getting recommendations from friends, so I thought I’d share my “worth reading” and “don’t bother” books of 2012. Enjoy!

Worth Reading

Next to Love - I loved this book. It follows the lives of three women during WWII, but it’s not a typical war story by any means. It’s a war story told from the voices we rarely hear – what it was like to be left at home alone during this time. What it was like for the women left behind. It’s a beautiful story of love and friendship and loss, and what American society was like before and after WWII. My book club rarely agrees but this was pretty much unanimously enjoyed.

The Language of Flowers - I randomly downloaded this to my kindle, and I unexpectedly loved this book. The story itself is nothing Pulitzer prize worthy, but it’s really good, and more than anything I loved learning about the meanings of flowers. It’s about the foster care system and takes place in SF (which I loved), but mostly it’s about the old language of flowers. However, a word of caution: I read this after my wedding and started to go a little crazy by analyzing what all the flowers I had meant.

For example:

Me: would you call the roses in my bouquet yellow or peach?
Kevin: yellow
Me: are you sure? I think they were more peach.
Kevin: I’m pretty sure they were yellow.
Me: well this is just terrible! Yellow means jealousy! I can’t believe I could walk down the aisle with flowers that meant jealousy! Why would I start off our marriage holding something that represents such a terrible trait?!?!
Kevin: you are crazy.

Or:

Scene: Kevin has just brought me home sunflowers, previously one of my favorite flowers.
Me: didn’t I tell you that we can’t get sunflowers anymore!? sunflowers represent false riches!
Kevin: I hate you.

I Know This Much Is True - A looooong book but well worth reading. A fictional tale that realistically portrays what it is like to love someone who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. The people in this story will stick with you for a long time.

The Sandcastle Girls - I’ve read quite a few books by this author (my favorite being Skeletons at the Feast), and this one is by far one of his better books. It’s historical fiction about the Armenian genocide. It’s moving and heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. It’s also very informative, because after reading this I realized just how little I knew about the Armenian genocide and the repercussions and horrors that still haunt people to this day.

Gone Girl - I’m sure you’ve heard about this book. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Best writing ever? No. Captivating and compelling? Yes. Definitely worth reading in my opinion.

A Long Way Down - If you are a fan of Nick Hornby (and who isn’t?), you will like this book. I laughed out loud more times than I count. I connected to the characters. I missed them after I finished the book. Perhaps not the most realistic story but overall a good read.

The Happiness Project - I reviewed this book here and here. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think it provides some great tips and ideas for taking control of your own happiness, but I will say that multiple times while reading I found the author, Gretchen Rubin, incredibly obnoxious and almost unbearably smug. Still worth reading though.

The Marriage Plot - This book had mixed reviews at my book club, but I really enjoyed it. It follows a young couple during their last year of college and after. The constant literary and philosophical references did start to bug me, but I enjoyed following the lives of Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell so much that I was able to overlook that part of it.  It took me a while to get into though.

Unsaid - If you are an animal lover, I think you will really connect with this book. That said, I don’t really consider myself a big animal person, and I still really enjoyed it. It’s told from the perspective of Helena, a veterinarian who has recently died and is looking down on/watching the lives of all of those she loved, including her many animals. It sounds cheesy but it’s really not. Its actually believable and beautiful, and I couldn’t put it down. I cried and I laughed and I connected. My idea of a good read.

Rules of Civility - This was originally on my “whatever” list, not because I didn’t like it, but because I wasn’t left with any sort of lasting impression. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized how much I enjoyed it, and just how beautiful of a story it was. It’s about a group of friends in upper society Manhattan in the 40s. I loved the characters, but I also loved getting a glimpse of what socialite life was like 60 years ago, and how much (and little) has changed since then.

Don’t Bother

The Violets of March - Ehh. I can’t even remember what this book was about it was so unmemorable. I do, however, remember being horribly unsatisfied when it was over. Don’t bother.

Before Ever After - I downloaded this book right before a long flight so I was stuck with it. It was horrible. If I wasn’t trapped on a long plane ride I would have stopped reading after chapter two. Terrible. Stupid. Juvenile.  I don’t know how it got published (or how it has any good reviews on Amazon). It was just… embarrassingly bad. Twilight was better written.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - I wanted to like this but I just didn’t. It was boring. So very boring.

Neither Great nor Terrible

When I was comprising this list I realized that I had also read a lot of books that were kind of in the “whatever” zone. Books that were not necessarily bad but were far from great, and not really worth mentioning. You know, books that you read and finished and kind of went “meh.” However, to pay respect where respect is due, my “whatever” list is below.

The Fault in Our Stars - Most people LOVED this book. I liked it, but it was nothing to rave about. I’m actually surprised by all the hype it’s received.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There - I debated about listing this at all because the book itself wasn’t that great, but the story is completely captivating. It’s a true story about a woman who claimed to be a survivor of 9/11. It’s a really quick read, and it’s so crazy that you really can’t believe its true. I wrote more about this here. 

Fifty Shades of Grey - What can I say about this? It’s so incredibly stupid, and the writing is just horrendous, but… if you are not into porn and are looking for something to help spice things up, this is bound to get your juices flowing, if you know what I mean. I wrote more about it here.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened -  By Queen Blogger Jenny Lawson aka “The Blogess” herself, this book is her personal memoir. It is definitely funny, but by the end I was ready for it to be over. It got to be a bit annoying.

The Tiger’s Wife - I kept waiting to love this book and it just didn’t happen. Most of my book club felt the same. I’m still not really sure what the book is supposed to be about.

Wild - A memoir about a woman’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t dislike this book, per say, I just didn’t find the author a very likable person, which kind of ruined it for me.

********

What do you think? Did you read any books I’ve listed above? I’m always on the lookout for good recommendations, so if you’ve read anything lately that I haven’t mentioned, please pass it along!

Happy reading!

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LaurenDecember 28, 2012 - 2:35 pm

Serena, I love this post.. takes me back through all the great book clubs this past year. I would also say The Langague of Flowers was one of my favorites!
~Lauren
http:/lalovesblog.com

DJ @werejustdandyDecember 29, 2012 - 5:52 am

I love favorite book posts! Thanks for all of the books to add to my to-read list.

I LOVED Rules of Civility – I actually added it to my favorite books EVER pile. It was just so PRETTY and apparently inspired me to CAPITALIZE with EMOTION, haha. I think I highlighted a quote I loved on nearly every other page.

I’m with you on The Tiger’s Wife. I just didn’t get it, nor did I really care. I was especially annoyed with it because a) it was so hyped up and b) I read it on a plane. Having a bad book on a plane is the worst!

I like the Fault in Our Stars, but I think it was kind of marred by its hype. I didn’t think it was as life-changing as the rest of the world seems to, and I was almost scared to not give it 5 stars on Goodreads.

JessicaDecember 29, 2012 - 8:54 am

Gosh, I love me a good book review. I loved Gone Girl and the Happiness Project. I’m going to read Language of Flowers next! I’ve been wondering about the Tiger’s Wife. I hate when books are so hyped and then they are just mediocre.

MichelleDecember 31, 2012 - 4:03 am

I think we need to start a book club because you and I have very similar tastes and opinions in books!

And thank you for posting this, I’ve been looking for some new books to download!

SerenaDecember 31, 2012 - 8:49 am

@DJ – After reading your stellar review I started to rethink my review of Rules of Civility, and I agree with you. It was so beautifully written, and you connected so deeply to the characters. I’m moving it to my “must read” list. I’m with you on the fault of our stars! I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so hyped up.

NicoleJanuary 1, 2013 - 11:46 pm

Yay! Book recommendations! I was JUST saying this morning I need a new book to read. I’m Nicole btw, I just found your blog from Across The Pond! Looking forward to reading more!!

Aloha!
NeNe Monster

:) Nicole

BrooklynneJanuary 3, 2013 - 1:21 pm

Great list! Downloading Unsaid to my Kindle now.

LesleyJanuary 4, 2013 - 10:40 pm

I’ve been wanting to read Language of Flowers for ages now! (I used to work in a flower shop. hehe) Glad to have your recommendation!

CourtneyFebruary 15, 2013 - 12:04 pm

I am OBSESSED with ‘I Know This Much Is True’ (and any Wally Lamb book I’ve ever read). I read it a couple of years ago in high school, and somehow finished it in three days. I ate. it. up. It hasn’t left my brain since, either!

[...] I share all sorts of random things, such as super awkward experiences like this, or reviews about books I love. Other times I get all serious and write about things that I think matter. Mostly though, I write [...]

Megan C. StroupSeptember 13, 2013 - 11:42 am

I promise I’m not trying to be creepy by commenting on such an old post haha; the last post I commented on had this one as a suggested post at the bottom, and as a huge bookworm, I just had to take a peek. :) I also loved Gone Girl and was very intrigued by The Woman Who Wasn’t There, but you have a lot of books on your “worth reading” list that I haven’t heard of, so I’m going to look them up now! Thanks for giving me more possibilities. :)
Megan C. Stroup recently posted…A Day in Monterey with Any Way the Wind Blows

[…] Last year I posted my best and worst books of 2012, and I thought it was about time to do the same for this year. […]